First Classs
First Classs, ridden by Ronan Thomas, winning the Al Mneefah Cup presented by The Ministry of Culture Image Credit: Courtesy: Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia/Mathea Kelley

Riyadh: Ronan Thomas rode a perfect waiting race on First Classs (USA) to crown a superb evening for Qatari-based trainer Alban de Mieulle when winning the $1 million Al Mneefah Cup, presented by The Ministry of Culture.

Thomas had plenty of experience on the improving five-year-old Arabian, the pair having won the Qatar International Derby for four-year-olds in December, and was sure his mount would be able to handle the step up in trip. The pair travelled easily off the pace throughout, making their move in the final stages to collar long-time leader Soko (FR) and finish two lengths in front, with Dergham Athbah (UAE) staying on for third.

A winner of a Grade 3 at Lone Star Park in his native America for his breeders Alan Kirshner and Deb Mihalof of Cre Run Farm at the age of three, he arrived in Qatar for his new owner, Nayef Saad Bin Sharida Al Kaabi in December 2020. Once there it took a while for him to find his feet, but his trainer is a master at allowing a horse time to develop and realise his potential.

First Classs is a son of one of the most versatile Arabian racehorses and sires, Dahess, who was also trained by De Mieulle to win six Group 1PA races and later set the record for the highest-priced Arabian to be sold at the Arqana Purebred Arabian sale when purchased for €1,050,000 in 2007.

High-level Arabian racing

“I was really confident before the race because I know my horse properly, he made a perfect race when he won the Derby in Qatar. It’s a high-level Arabian racing, we beat Abbes, who finished second to Lady Princess in the big race there,” said jockey Thomas.

“So it was a tough race today, but I was really confident after the start. I had the perfect place and you can see I went to the front without using my whip. He’s a really nice horse.”

Alban De Mieulle, trainer of First Classs, said: “He travelled very well. Soko was in front with the Al Khalediah horse on the inside. We thought it would be run at a faster pace but no, not too fast, but he was travelling so easily behind and then came on the outside. I’m very pleased.”